Bob Remembers Harry and Patty

Some of the Harry Nilsson article was originally posted on FEBRUARY 25, 2009 and Updated on February 28th, 2019. The Patty Faralla addendum is brand new. New photos in both.

Harry…
Covers of his songs were often more successful than his own, original, recordings. Ironically, the two biggest hits he ever had were written by Fred Neil, and Peter Ham.

That is sort of the story of Harry’s life …

He is probably the most underrated American songwriter of the last 50 years (other than me, of course), but his songs came from deeper than most writers are willing to dig.

Harry with a Couple of Badfingers

I was introduced to Harry in early 1965 by a wonderful woman named Patty  Farralla. Patty worked at RCA, (as a Press Agent), and was a young music lover and deep into the great clubs and music in and around Hollywood. She was also ridiculously connected.

Harry had made a couple of so-so recordings for another label in L.A, but Patty knew he had the goods. She met Harry when he signed to RCA and she got to know him professionally. She also had become a friend of mine through shows my band, The Family Tree, had played at the Whisky, and had even flown up North to see us play in Modesto, California.

She got into an argument with a cop at the show which ended with her telling him to fuck off, and the cop (a true gentleman) arrested me for inciting to riot because I was standing next to her and laughed when she called him out on his bullshit. Strong language in those days (1965) was decidedly inappropriate especially aimed at a Police Officer, and rarely, if ever, did a woman act and speak so boldly in the face of authority. The officer couldn’t wrap his head around being told to fuck off, especially since it was coming from a hot, red headed young woman with cute little freckles and the face of an angel.

Patty was a ballsy, intelligent, sophisticated young woman, disguised as a cute little girl. A strange combination in 1965, and not one for the weak of heart, or misplaced macho genes.

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RCA Building on Sunset in Hollywood

It had been Patty who had taken The Family Tree’s Mira demos to RCA and got us a record deal with a Major, back when Majors were just that …a MAJOR record label. For four kids like us, it was like winning the lottery, getting laid, and being able to fly, all rolled into one shiny package.

RCA Hollywood Studio A

At the same time, Harry had also been picked up by RCA, and like us, and Jefferson Airplane, and Jose Feliciano, had been placed in the hands of their youngest, hippest in-house producer, (remember them?), Rick Jarrard.

Harry was working in a bank at the time, holding onto his job and pursuing a career in music at the same time. He looked like the classic little kid that knew how to behave in front of adults, but would tie up the babysitter and break into the liquor cabinet when mom and dad went out for dinner, all innocence and “aw shucks”, and, hanging his head, the devil in disguise, get away with it.

Patty introduced Harry to me almost immediately, and we really hit it off. At Patty’s apartment the first time we met, we passed an old acoustic guitar back and forth and played our songs for one another. Up until this moment, I had not been impressed by any of my peers that were in basically the same, unknown, wanna-be position that I was, save a guy that lived with Susie Hocum at the same time I did, (Google her), when Susie would take in young musicians that needed a place to crash. He never played any of his tunes for me, but he was a great guy. His name was Gram Parsons.

So Harry is dutifully impressed when I play him a tune or two. I hand him the guitar, and he starts singing: “Well in 1941 a happy father had a son
And by 1944 the father walked right out the door
And in ‘45 the mom and son were still alive
But who could tell in ‘46 if the two were to survive…”

‘Holy crap’, I thought, ‘this guy is amazing.’

Then he sang another, and not only has the song remained one of my all time favorites, he sang the entire first verse with ONE BREATH!! I STILL can’t sing it the way he did without gasping for air…

“I spend the night in a chair
Thinking she’ll be there
But she never comes
And I wake up and wipe the sleep from my eyes
And I rise
To face another day Without Her

Do do do, do do do do, do do do do…”

Double holy crap!

Back and forth we went, becoming fans of one another, and fast friends by just passing that guitar between us. We saw in each other the shared love of music, hope, and respect we both sought, while Patty stood leaning in the doorway, the same smile of accomplishment on her face that must have crossed the face of the guy that introduced Baskin to Robbins.

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Did We Ever Work Together ?

…A little.

When Harry was recording Pandemonium Shadow Show, (the name, a line from Ray Bradbury’s, “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, which Harry wanted to call the album, but Bradbury’s people wouldn’t license), I played piano on Cuddly Toy, and Vann and Kootch from the Family Tree played drums and bass. We were livin’ the dream, man.

I had been writing the Tree’s album, Miss Butters, by then, and Harry and I co-wrote a track called Butter’s Lament for the project. It wasn’t until after his death and the ‘Personal Best’ CD was released, that I discovered he had recorded a version of the song back in the ’60s as well.

People would tell me years later that I wrote like Harry, and I used to say, “Yeah, well he writes like me, too”, but Harry wrote like Harry, and no one before or since has come close. Melancholy, humour, and rage, shaken and stirred, and delivered in an iron glass wrapped in velvet, sarcasm, truth, and nastiness.

Harry could be darker and colder than the inside of Donald Trump’s brainpan.

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Some highlights of our friendship ….
Getting thrown out of Thee Experience along with Mickey Dolenz, my next-door neighbor at the time and one of Harry’s best friends, for starting a snowball fight by ordering a pile of cheap champagne that came in buckets filled with shaved ice, and hitting a nice family from Ventura who demanded our ejection. Marshall Brevitz, the owner, explained to them that we were valued customers and he couldn’t do that, but he’d comp their meal.
We didn’t get thrown out then.
We got thrown out when Marshall got pwnd with a barrage of snowballs from Harry, Mickey, and I. We did drink the champagne the snowballs came with…
Dolenz didn’t recall this years later when I brought it up, but it happened.

Introducing Harry to the president of the Family Tree Fan Club, Diane Clatworthy.
Diane was so in love with Harry she would cry every time his name came up. I arranged a date. Diane became Harry’s first wife, and mother to Zak, his first child.

Diane, Harry, and Zak

Having Harry drive all the way up to Stockton California to show off his first Royalty check purchase…a used Jaguar sedan. It was on this trip he wrote some, or all of,  One on the same piano on which I had written the Miss Butters album.

Drinking at Martoni’s in Hollywood, not only for the great martinis and pasta, but to wait for Dean Martin to come in for dinner. I don’t remember if he ever did. Martinis will do that to you…

Martoni’s

Harry’s ‘shit stories’. There were three of these. He must have told these anecdotes hundreds of times while I knew him, one after the other. They never failed to break me, and everyone else up. The only one I remember was about the time he fell asleep on the can, woke up to answer the phone, and fell over and knocked himself out because his legs were asleep and not working.

Sitting in Aldo’s on Hollywood Blvd in the late afternoon listening to all the record reps discuss their current releases and their chances at KRLA, KFWB, and KHJ. Loud jackets, much alcohol, great stories, and the lowdown on what new records and artists were exciting to them. These long forgotten foot soldiers of the record industry were colorful, hilarious, and entertaining. They would exchange their labels product with each other out of the trunks of their cars. It was all about the music. Our friendship with Tony Richland, (Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song) came out of these afternoons.

Aldo’s was right next door to KFWB

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Our friendship ended over the last Winston in a pack of cigarettes and a tank of gas. Well, that and Harry’s burgeoning friendship with George, then Paul, then Ringo and John. I was also introduced to Derek Taylor by Patty, but I was so busy trying to play the Family Tree album, (Miss Butters) for him on a reel to reel tape recorder I slugged into his house, that I failed the ‘cool’ exam. Derek and I remained friendly, however.

Harry of course, went on to become part of the Beatle family, and honestly, I’m thankful I didn’t. I don’t think I would have survived it.

Harry didn’t.

I still have issues with Lennon, who could goad a lesbian into gang-banging a pickup truck full of misogynistic rednecks, for likewise talking Harry into drinking Brandy Alexanders and huffing quality Peruvian Marching Powder with him day and night for a year, causing Harry to become Diabetic and a bit of an asshole.

John Playing Tonsil Hockey with May Pang While Harry Gets Intimate with Brandy Alexander

Lennon’s leadership also reduced Harry’s angelic and gloriously intimate voice to a raspy, mangled, croak, as evidenced on the Pussycats LP.

Harry had always been driven by abandonment issues, (1941 is the story of Harry…those things really happened), the rage he carried toward his father, and the feeling of not being ‘good enough’ to be where he was. He could be, like Lennon, a vicious, nasty bastard, and then ‘aw shucks’ you right back into forgiving him.
There is a track on the CD reissue of Miss Butters called He Spins Around. It is about Harry.

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The last time I saw Harry was in line at the Carnegie Deli in New York. He was in front of me in an overcoat and I recognized the back of his head somehow. He was on his way to London to hang out, record, and move into Ringo’s flat for a while. He looked world weary, but still had the old twinkle in his eye. We reminisced while his limo idled out front, caught up, and had a few laughs waiting for our medium old fashioned (pastrami) on a Kaiser with double mustard, pickle on the side. When I asked after Diane, he said that they had gotten divorced, the twinkle in his eyes dimming, with what I could only imagine was caused by leaving his wife and young son behind, of abandoning them, of becoming his father.

Years later, I learned that this was the trip to the airport when he met Una, his second wife, and started his large, lasting family. He only abandoned them on his passing, which came way too early, to a man that probably had much more to share with us before he left.

Sometimes Harry’s dark side manifested itself in his music, (Cuddly Toy, for all its Monkee bounce and sing-along sweetness is, in fact, about a Bike Gang serial raping of some sweet young thing), but more often than not, his melancholy, sadness, and Daddy issues served as sub-text, underlying many of his greatest songs.

Consider the depth and passion, sadness, and rage of the man the next time you listen to his music. He was a rare and unique Artist …and we all need to remember that. You can have Bohemian Rhapsody and Brian May’s calculated music, I’ve no problem with that. …but give me a Biopic about the Late, lamented, Harry Nilsson …THAT’S a story worth sitting through, and a soundtrack of unequaled power.

I just wish he hadn’t Jumped into the fire.

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Addendum – Maggie (Patty) Faralla

In searching the vast internet for pictures rarely seen of Harry and others in this article, I had a devil of a time finding anything on Patty Faralla, the woman who got me signed to RCA and later, to Elektra, who was a close and dear friend and obviously a linch-pin in my musical career.

She was quite mad at times, but genuinely gifted when it came to recognizing talent and spreading the word. Funny, audacious, an iconoclast and decidedly eclectic and unique, she followed her muse while being a muse to so many.

Well, I finally found a picture …but it was attached to an obituary.

I last spoke to her in 2010, when I finally got tipped to where she was and what she was doing. We talked on the phone for an hour and a half or so, and, promising to stay in touch, hung up and went about our lives.

And now I am saddened to find that we will never have a chance to ‘stay in touch’. Time. Flies.

MAGGIE (Patty) FARALLA, born in Washington, DC, on March 24, 1943, died at home in Santa Fe on December 21, 2014, with those who loved her at her side. An artist at heart, it took Maggie some time to find the right medium to best express her unique form of creativity. Growing up in Hollywood, she spent the first 15 years of her professional life as a rock and roll press agent, acting as publicist for such artists as the Eagles, Steely Dan, KISS and Tony-award winner Rupert Holmes. Fleeing the L.A. music business, she decided to turn her love of fine food into her next career and apprenticed with Michael Roberts, chef/owner of Trumps, an iconic West Hollywood restaurant at the forefront of the California culinary scene in the early 1980s. The chef started her in the pastry pantry–something she didn’t particularly enjoy. “My goal at that point,” Maggie liked to say, “was to be a chef, not a baker.” From Trumps she moved on to Spago, another nationally recognized Hollywood restaurant. When Maggie moved to Santa Fe in the mid ’80s, she first worked the line at the then-fledgling Santacafe, then founded the bakery at the Zia Diner. After a number of years as a high-production pastry chef for Walter Burke Catering, she decided it was finally time to pursue her own art—and Maggie’s Cakes, a design studio focusing primarily on one-of-a-kind wedding cakes, was born in 2000. Constructing cakes allowed her to practice another of her passions, architecture, and the fondant finish provided a canvas for her art. “Fondant,” she said in an earlier interview, “is an actual gesso canvas. It’s a piece of sugar clay that you can roll out and shape and form and color any way you like.” The artist had found her medium—and her life’s work. Maggie is survived by Zara Southard and Malia Kant‚ of Santa Fe; Zachariah, Zayden and Zaniel Southard of Albuquerque; her former partner Charley Southard; and her stepmother June Faralla of Seattle, Washington. She was preceded in death by her parents, William and Marguerite Faralla, her uncle, the artist Richard Faralla, and her beloved dog Willa. Maggie had a large and generous heart, and believed in giving back to her adopted hometown, donating birthday cakes for Kitchen Angels’ homebound clients, museum openings and other community events. She brought light and love and laughter to every room she entered; her wit, wisdom and indomitable spirit will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

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See Maggie’s art here > https://www.maggiesweddingcakes.com/

Rest in Peace, Dear Patty …and thank you for your help, your friendship, and your unyielding belief in people, artists, life, and having the wit and humour to enjoy it all.

Safe travels.

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Segarini’s regular columns have been thrown out of bars for wearing a kotex on their foreheads

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

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